Tuesday, March 8, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt two)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

The auto lobby devised two counterpoints to the memorials and protests: education and enforcement—laws that governed who was allowed in the street and lessons to indoctrinate the public to these new rules. While some of the financial benefactors of car sales pushed municipalities to pass local traffic ordinances restricting pedestrians’ access to the street, the American Automobile Association in particular focused on education, launching and funding a national traffic safety campaign in schools. Street crossing lessons became part of the curriculum, and those lessons reinforced the idea that now cars go first and pedestrians wait. Inherent in this education was the message that if a person did not wait and a driver killed them in the street, their death was caused not by the car’s speed but by jaywalking—the pedestrian’s error. The goal was to teach the next generation that the roads are for automobiles, not people. And since cars were new, and pedestrians had long ruled city streets, someone had to invent the idea that a person could walk improperly—the auto lobby did just that.

The automobile lobby also found new ways to inject human error into the car-accident conversation. Norton found that local driving clubs, like the Chicago Motor Club, began to place items in newspapers to ensure that “jaywalker” appeared in the press. In Los Angeles, the Automobile Club of Southern California even paid to paint the city’s first crosswalks, producing and posting signs that read JAY WALKING PROHIBITED BY ORDER—POLICE DEPARTMENT—even though the term “jaywalker” didn’t appear in the local traffic code. In New York City, the Automobile Club of America laid the problem out this way in one 1923 pamphlet: “Pedestrians often appear stupid or careless, and lots of them are.”

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